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Posts Tagged ‘ronhoward’

poster_infernoI love these Robert Langdon movies. And I love the story concept of waking up without knowing where you are or how you got there. I’ve even had a couple of moments like that happen to me, much smaller scale of course, and from those moments I’ve thought of my own screenplay and stageplay ideas from that concept vehicle. I’ve read a couple books and graphic novels with this concept. I think what attracts me to it is that situation creates an instant mystery  Without mystery, your thriller is worthless, I feel.

So, with Inferno, the latest film production inspired by a novel of Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons), we have not only one mystery but two. The first is figuring out why Robert Langdon awoke in a hospital in Florence, Italy. The second is locating the virus left behind by an unhinged idealistic billionaire. However, the film has faults and not as strong as one would think having a double-mystery thriller.

Langdon, once again played by Tom Hanks (Sully), wakes up in a hospital not knowing whom he is or how he got to Florence, Italy. However, after being shot at and rescued by his nurse, he finds a clue to the location of a deadly virus intended to wipe out the Earth’s population by 75-percent, using Dante’s notorious book Inferno as a guide.

Eventually, we learn who is after Langdon and his assistant, whom to trust and whom are the “bad guys,” and eventually we find ourselves in Istanbul for the exciting climax.

I will start with what I loved about the film. One, I loved the double mystery of the film, especially moments like when Langdon discovers he and a partner stole a mask of Dante’s from a museum, which he learned by watching the security video with authorities standing next to him. Scenes like that reveal were strong and excellent. There were several WTF moments in the plot which really kept me involved and caring about the next turn.

Two, I liked the pacing. It felt like a quality thriller with high intensity and always that sense of urgency Robert Langdon stories now need to have and bring that expectation. Director Ron Howard (The DaVinci Code, In the Heart of the Sea) did well to slow the film down in spots to allow the viewer to process certain information to keep up with Langdon and his assistant, Sienna, played by Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything).

Three, I enjoyed the locations. Who doesn’t enjoy chase sequences by car or on foot through European cobble stone streets? Seriously. IF you don’t, you’re dead inside.

However, the film isn’t perfect. The pace of the film got disrupted a couple times with a very weak storyline about Langdon’s not-quite romance with investigator Sinsky, played by Sidse Babett Knudsen (Tv’s Westworld). I really struggled to give a shit about lingering “what could have been” feelings between Langdon and this lady. I was okay with the writing establishing their backstory as such, but letting it linger, feeling some sort of closure or inner conflict was necessary to address was a mistake and took away from an otherwise exciting film.

**SPOILER ALERTS IN THE NEXT TWO PARAGRAPHS**

It also seems to me that the company responsible setting up Langdon with a memory lapse and creating this incredibly elaborate fake hospital just to get them to help them find this virus was overkill. Langdon isn’t exactly an FBI profiler. It seems he could have been much easily duped into helping the wrong people until he gets evidence to the contrary than having to kidnap him, distort his memory and pull all the other strings involved. The whole presence of this company was weak, I felt.

I also felt the sequences involving Langdon attempting to get his memory back and having loads of annoying frightful visions really got old. It seemed to occupy the entire first 20 minutes of the film and was really getting hard to watch until we the viewers starting getting hard clues about our mysteries. Until then, it was giving me a headache.

Next, I thought it was obvious Sienna was working for the wrong side. Langdon got played by the person standing closest to him. Maybe it’s easy to spot the double crossing character easier now that three of Brown’s novels have made it to screen, but between Ian McKellan’s character in DaVinci Code, Ewan McGregor in Angels & Demons and not Jones in Inferno, it’s apparent whomever is closest to Langdon is the bag guy or a part of them. I and others I know who have seen the movie saw this twist coming.

That being said, Seinna as a character was quite strong once we learn her entire back story. Between her and billionaire boyfriend Zobrist, played by Ben Foster (The Finest Hours), whom created the virus to kill most of humanity, presented a antagonist presence which truly felt they were doing the right thing for humanity. They felt by destroying 75-percent of it, they were saving humanity’s existence for the future. I’ve always said movies’ most scary villains are the ones who are convinced they are doing the right thing.

Overall, I felt the movie was worth the cost of admission and were not better or worse than previous Robert Langdon films from Ron Howard. This movie just makes me want to read other Dan Brown books awaiting their shot at a silver screen production.

To read the review of Inferno from my Movie Corner writing cohort, Brian G. Felts, click here.

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poster_heartofseaTalk about a let down. Ron Howard. Period piece. New England story. Whaling ships. Moby dick. And it was so misdirected with material, it didn’t know what to do with itself.

This movie shares the tale which inspired Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick. At first, it examines a small power struggle between Owen Chase, played by Chris Hemsworth (Thor), and George Pollard, played by Benjamin Walker (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). One man has loads of whaling experience while the later has no real experience but an established name in the whaling industry. By the way, did you know whales produce an oil that was a hot worldwide commodity during the early 1800’s? That much I learned. Anyways, Chase and Pollard bicker until they have problems even finding whales to kill until they are off the coast of Ecuador and learn of hunting grounds where hundreds of whales exist. However, there’s a large white whale protecting them all.

Eventually, Chase and Pollard’s ship The Essex is stoved by the whale and the remaining seamen are left adrift on the water for about 75 days. Meanwhile, the whale has been tracking them to finish them off.

My biggest problem was a lack of emotional connection to the story. There wasn’t a clear cut hero. There wasn’t a clear cut inner motivation for Chase or an outer motivation for Pollard. If this story inspired Moby Dick, I expected one of these characters to have the same obsession towards finding and killing the white whale as Cpt. Ahab did in Melville’s work. But that didn’t quite happen. It appeared it was about to go that direction with Chase, but it never did…not to an obsessive level.

At first the movie was a story of redemption for reflective character Tom Nickerson, a greenhorn swabbie, played by Brendan Gleesan (Braveheart) as the tale teller and Tom Holland (The Impossible) as the younger visage, as he attempted to confess the story to Melville in hopes of giving him material for Moby Dick. His confession eventually pinnacles with the fact that the surviving crew members after 60 days we’re forced to eat their dead to survive. That was the big reveal and to be honest it lacked luster. It’s a plot point you could see coming. How else would they have been rescued after 75 days?

By the end of the movie however, there was this stupid nonsense about an investigation as to how the Essex sank. That investigation turned into a redemption moment for the greenhorn captain Pollard who confessed a whale took down the whaling ship instead of what the owners of the ship pressured him and Chase to state. Nothing in the movie indicated this is what the movie was about prior to the last 10 minutes. I hate that. All that time attempting to understand the actual message of the film and it misdirects you to some stupid conventional ending.

This movie was below director Ron Howard (Apollo 13, The DaVinci Code). He has done so much better and I so wanted this movie to be better than it actually turned out to be. It was a combination of The Perfect Storm, Unbroken and Alive. It wasn’t great.

In lieu of performances, the accents were the worst part. Cillian Murphy as the Essex’s second mate maybe had the best accent representing Nantucket, Mass., but the rest of the cast had terrible vocal choices. Hemsworth was the worst, mostly because his accent was so inconsistent. It literally changed through different scenes. One point, it changed within the SAME scene.

Overall, like I said, this was a let down. I was on the fence spending money on this one but because it was directed by Ron Howard, I pulled the trigger. But that’s the last time. I now know Howard can misdirect a movie like anyone else. He’s not flawless and neither is his latest work.

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tomcruise

photo courtesy of tomcruise.com

Tom…sigh. What an adventure this guy has led us on. From his early days in Taps and Risky Business to his descent into Scientology and keeping Katie Holmes locked in his basement wearing lace panties and chained to a broken water pipe–I have absolutely no facts to back that up by the way. And then, miraculously, he somewhat emerges from the rectum of L. Ron Hubbard to produce a handful of respectable works and stops opening his mouth to the media about his “religion,” trying to make the rest of us feel beneath him because we didn’t bother to read Dianetics.

As you may be able to tell, my love-hate relationship with the works of one of Hollywood’s biggest has been bitter over the years, but the guy still does great movies for the most part. However, over the course of his career, he has produced a lucid collection of stinkers. This is what I plan to examine as a challenge from my movie corner co-hort Brian G. Felts. Below is my Top 5 Favorites list of what I feel are the worst movies in which Tom Cruise had a major role.

Let me start by remembering when I was first introduced to a movie which had Tom Cruise in it. I don’t. He just sort of showed up one day in Top Gun and the rest was history. Kidding. I actually saw the movie Taps (1981) in the cinema when I was seven years old. It was about a bunch of kids who standoff to save their military academy from being taken over by a condo developer. It was junk. The next time I saw Cruise I believe was the infamous dancing in his underwear scene in Risky Business (1983). But what drops people’s jaws the most is when they find out I didn’t actually see Top Gun until I was about 32 years old. I was 12 when it hit theaters but for some reason despite its popularity I never saw it. The first I actually saw it was in the cinemas however during one of those throw back classic promotions at a local movie house. Top Gun clearly put Cruise on the map and projected him to A-List notoriety or at least put him on the fast track to it.

Then he had to go and marry Nicole Kidman, whom I had a major celebrity crush on for I think a decade, and this started my low despise of the Cruise ship. That’s when I started to notice, not all Tom Cruise movies are actually any good. So here is my breakdown of the Top 5 fails on Tom Cruise’s resume as an actor. They are listed from No. 5 to No. 1.

 

poster_valkyrieNo. 5 – Valkyrie (2008)

I’m not sure with whom to blame blame for this movie; director Bryan Singer? (X-Men, The Usual Suspect). But regardless, Tom Cruise carries the film as Col Claus con Stauffenberg who help implement a plot to assassinate and overthrow Adolf Hitler during the height of Nazi Germany. The film includes an all star cast and to be honest the story itself is great.

The production however was terrible. Every character was supposed to be German but the majority of the cast had their natural British accents in tow and Cruise had no attempt to conceal his American dialect. I don’t think anyone in the cast sounded remotely German, so this very engaging historical story was ruined by a total lack of authenticity.

As for Cruise, I simply didn’t think he was able to pull off a character who was a disabled war veteran. Again, the authenticity just wasn’t there from his performance, his choice or those of the actors around him. Like I said, can’t exactly blame Cruise for the level of blah this movie brought since its problems were across the board and not just with Cruise’s role or performance.

poster_collateralNo. 4 – Collateral (2004)

What was with Tom Cruise’s grey hair in this film? Cruise’s makeup job in this picture appears to try and represent him as an older gentlemen, but Cruise’s physical and vocal characterization of Vincent is still younger and athletic than his look. My assessment is, Vincent, as a professional hit man, has died his hair this way so if any witnesses attempt to identify him, cops will be searching for an older man and not someone who looks like he would normally. However, there’s no text in the movie to support that, so Cruise’s look is consistently unusual, almost distracting.

The movie itself again wasn’t terrible. It got very cluttered in the second act with misguided sequences and lengthy random shots from director Michael Mann (Heat, Ali) showing the “driving” between Vincent (Cruise) and Max (Jamie Foxx). These shots were lacking reason and I thought it dragged the movie on. Act Three fell victim to a few cinematic conventions, which was disappointing after such a lengthy build up.

My biggest problem with the movie is its title. I just don’t see how the word “collateral” has anything to do with the story. I don’t see the relevance. Oh well. Click here to read my full review of Collateral.

poster_lionsforlambsNo. 3 – Lions for Lambs (2007)

My last three selections for worst movies involving Tom Cruise each have a high w.t.f. factor. The worst thing about this movie is its muddled messages. Is it pro-war? Is it pro-activism? Is it pro-education? Is it anti-military? I really can’t decipher the damn thing. As for Tom Cruise’s part as a young senator named Jasper Irving who works a media connection, a reporter played by Meryl Streep (Into the Woods), to announce a new military action, win favor with the press and gain public popularity.

Eventually, we find Cruise’s character to be this Paul Ryan-type young republican who is just desperate to “take the big toys down off the shelf” as reporter Janine Roth (Streep) puts it. If this is a little unclear of its meaning, she means these young republicans are too eager to nuke an adversary and start World War III just to compare dick size.

At every turn, this movie was convoluted at every corner. The influence of Professor Malley, played by Robert Redford (Sneakers), over his apathetic student played by Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spiderman). The political influence of congressman Irving over Roth, and more so her editor’s motivations. The ideologies of Malley’s two students who join the military to prove a point and get injured during a covert military action against terrorism. There are so many storylines which are supposed to intersect, but ultimately they don’t. Not directly. So the whole thing is confusing and pointless.

And Cruise’s presence doesn’t help this stinker one bit.

poster_vanillaskyNo. 2 – Vanilla Sky (2001)

What. Was. That? If there is an award for most confusing and clouded storyline by an established and talented filmmaker, it’s Vanilla Sky. Let’s start with the poster, shall we? It’s Tom Cruise’s fat head on a one sheet looking like he just woke up and unclear what’s going on. That;s pretty much how I looked after trying to watch this movie.

This was director Cameron Crowe’s (Jerry MaGuire, Almost Famous) worst movie ever. Two hours and 16 minutes just to watch Cameron Diaz (In Her Shoes) get upset Cruise blew a load in her mouth and then tried to dump her. What? “You came in my mouth. I mean, that means something!”-actual line from Diaz in the movie. What?!

Basically, if I understand it correctly, is Cruise plays this influential publisher who lives in privilege until he is in this car accident with this jilted lover (Diaz). Then his life, which we never really gave a crap about in the first place gets thrown around like a rag doll. So what. Who care? Talked about being emotionally disconnected from the material, Vanilla Sky is the perfect example of poo on a stick.

poster_eyeswideshutNo. 1 – Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Oh boy. Here we go. Time for every guy who saw this movie to chastise me for saying this. Eyes Wide Shut sucked so bad, it literally makes me want to cry. Is it Tom Cruise’s fault…surprisingly, no. It was the last fully completed project from director Stanley Kubrick (Full Metal Jacket, The Shining), of whom’s work I completely despise.

Why does it make me want to cry? Because the one film which shows Nicole Kidman completely naked multiple times I SOOOOOO wish was actually a movie worth watching. However, just like all of Kubrick non-sense productions, it is slow and senseless.

Again, let me see if I have this straight. Cruise plays this doctor who finds out his wife cheated on him. So pissed off at her and looking for payback, I think (wasn’t really made clear), goes on this nightlong sexcapade where he never actually has sex, but does run neck deep into this secret society of swingers that scares the crap out of you with the hollow piano score. It was painfully slow. It was painfully misdirected in story. In fact, there was no story. It was Tom Cruise. Walking around New York City finding himself in awkward situations which had something remotely to do with sex.

In the end, we realize the movie could have been wrapped up in 30 minutes to share its final message of “Don’t cheat on each other.” Kubrick, and naked Kidman in a shitty movie and having the watch a confused Cruise try to make sense of the story…and possibly a reason why he even agreed to be in the picture. This is in my opinion the worst Tom Cruise starred movie on his resume. Click here to read my full review of Eyes Wide Shut.

To be fair, I will briefly share some the films I feel were Tom Cruise’s best, but unfortunately their greatness are attributed to other talents involved in the production. They are listed in no particular order.

 

Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

This picture won Oliver Stone his second Academy Award for directing and rightfully so. This was also one of the best films I’ve see Tom Cruise do. If fact, no matter how many times I’ve seen it, Cruise melts away and I am watching the real Ron Kovic. It’s masterful in performance and production. This was also nominated for Best Picture that year.

Jerry MaGuire (1996)

Although a Cameron Crowe-directed movie appears on my worst list, this one would be on my best list. It’s one of the best films for Crowe and for Cruise. Maybe even one of the best films of that decade. This was also nominated for Best Picture from the Academy Awards that year. Click here to read my full review of Jerry MaGuire.

Minority Report (2002)

Let’s credit Steven Spielberg for this. It’s simply awesome and I am NOT a fan of science fiction, but the mystery involved in this film and the concept of a cop’s name coming up in their future criminal’s system was interesting. It was exciting and perfectly told…again, to Spielberg. Thank you Tommy boy for not screwing it up with your presence.

The Color of Money (1986)

Cruise was a supporting role in this. Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) was the true star, of which his performance won him the Academy Award that year. It is also one of the best films directed by Martin Scorsese (The Departed, Goodfellas). The cockiness of Cruise’s character fit perfectly with the coolness of Newman. This was maybe the first evidence of Tom Cruise being able to hold his own with heavy-hitting actors like Newman. This was another hopeful for Best Picture that particular year. Click here to read my full review of The Color of Money.

Far and Away (1992)

It’s Irish and it’s Ron Howard (Apollo 13, The Davinci Code) directing a story from his own family history. THAT is why this movie is so good…oh and it has Nicole Kidman to look at. The movie itself is pop-Irish at best, but given it’s based on the romantic story of Howard’s great grandparents meeting and coming to America together and reunite at the Great Oklahoma Land Race makes the movie far more interesting than otherwise. Click here to read my full review of Far and Away.

A Few Good Men (1992)

Let’s blame Aaron Sorkin’s writing on this great film, based on his stageplay, as well as the direction from Rob Reiner. However, This was maybe the best movie Tom Cruise ever put his name on. It is a great mystery. It is a great courtroom drama. It’s a great story of growth for Cruise’s character, and with Demi Moore standing next to him, he isn’t the worst thing in the movie. PLUS, it has Jack Nicholson in a very badass role which also gained him a supporting actor Academy Award that year. The movie itself was nominated Best Picture.

 

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